Nik Kershaw: Gentle Giant are my prog heroes

Nik Kershaw
(Image credit: Jan Persson/Redferns)

“I first got into Gentle Giant when a fusion rock band I was in during my days in Ipswich covered a couple of their numbers. The band in question were The King Fisher, and we did the songs Free Hand and Just The Same. I was a total novice when it came to Gentle Giant, but the rest of The King Fisher were really into them, and went to see GG play several times.

“In fact, I never got the chance to see Gentle Giant live, and only found out how extraordinary they were onstage when I recently got a DVD of them filmed by the BBC in 1976. When you listen to them on a live album, you imagine that there must be so many people involved, because of the multiple sounds they get – but it is down to just five people. I find that so bizarre.

“One minute you’re watching them playing normal rock instruments, and the next they’re onto the xylophone and recorder. Just how they manage to do it all is amazing. To be honest, they’re not like anyone else you’ve ever heard. Jethro Tull came closest, I suppose. But even they were a way off. A song like Just The Same has time signatures that are bonkers. They shouldn’t work, it’s all wrong. But comes out brilliantly. 

“When you hear what Kerry Minnear does with his instrumentation… well, he’s not like anyone else. The harmonies and counterpoints he uses are stunning. And if you’ve never seen the band live, or watched them on DVD, then go and check out all the footage on YouTube. Then you’ll appreciate what I’m saying. You can spend hours studying what they did – and still not fully get it.

“I was into Genesis when I was younger, and that’s what got me into prog in the first place. But how can you even begin to associate them with Gentle Giant? In fact, can you even call the latter a prog band at all? What they did was unique, and put them into their own bag. One thing I totally loved about them was that you could never second-guess what would come next. There were no straight musical lines with Gentle Giant. 

“The band have always been underrated, probably because they were tough to tie down to any genre. But if you genuinely love music as art, then you’ll love Gentle Giant.” 

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica (opens in new tab), published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009.